There was once a time, not too long ago, where the River Arts District was one of Asheville’s least desirable areas. Abandoned warehouses lined a riverfront that was frequently laden with trash, and the only sign of economic life was the train pulling into the station. Today, after a massive artistic and creative resurgence, new life has been breathed into the district on the banks of the French Broad River, and where empty warehouses and buildings once stood, there are now spectacular studios full of sculptors, glass blowers, woodworkers, and painters. When visiting Asheville’s River Arts District, peruse the 180 studios that line the narrow streets, or stop for a drink at the ferociously popular microbrewery, The Wedge. At the city’s best restaurant for barbecue—12 Bones—enjoy your meal by the banks of the river that flows through the center of town, and watch as tubers, kayakers, and paddleboards all navigate the gently flowing waters. You can stop by a local farmers’ market by day and enjoy live music by night, and the River Arts District is the funkiest district in the funkiest town in the South.
Clingman Avenue is the main thoroughfare in the River Arts District, which is about one mile from downtown and accessible by vehicle or foot. Parking can sometimes be challenging in summer, and nearly all the business are open by day—whereas evenings are virtually deserted.